FOXBORO, Mass. - The New England Patriots signed a pair of former players today, veteran defensive end Chris Sullivan and offensive lineman Stephen Neal. They also placed cornerback/kickoff returner Ben Kelly on injured reserve.
Sullivan, 28, has started 22 of 78 career games during his six-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2000) and New England Patriots (1996-1999). During the 2000 season, he recorded 20 tackles (11 solos) while playing in 15 games, including two starts with the Steelers. Sullivan was placed on injured reserve by the Steelers (9/2/01) and later released (9/5/01). The 6-foot-4-inch, 285-pound defensive end was originally drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round (119th overall) of the 1996 NFL draft. Sullivan recorded 89 tackles (63 solos) while playing in 63 games, including 20 starts for the Patriots. He was credited with a career-high 40 tackles (29 solos) with four sacks during the 1998 season.
Neal, 25, returns to the Patriots after spending the previous 13 weeks of the season on the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad. He was originally signed by the Patriots (7/23/01) and played in three preseason games before being released (8/26/01). The 6-foot-4-inch, 290-pound defensive lineman finished his career as a collegiate wrestler at California State University-Bakersfield with a record of 156-10, including 83-0 in his final two seasons. He was a four-time All-American wrestler ('96-'99) at CSUB. In 1999 Neal was the World Freestyle Champion, Pan-American Games Champion, USA Freestyle Champion and repeat NCAA Champion. He also won the Dan Hodge Award, known as the Heisman Trophy of wrestling. He was an alternate for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Neal was a five-sport athlete at San Diego High (Calif.), competing in wrestling, football, swimming, tennis and track and field.
Kelly, 23, played in two games with the Patriots this season and returned seven kickoffs for 123 yards (17.6 avg.) since he was claimed off of waivers from the Miami Dolphins (12/2/01). The 5-foot-9-inch, 185-pound defender was drafted in the third round (84th overall) of the 2000 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins after earning all-conference honors at Colorado as a defensive back and kickoff returner. He saw action in just two games as a rookie and was injured in a game against the Patriots (9/24/00). He was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 26. This year, he appeared in two games and was credited with one tackle before being waived by the Dolphins.